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Piano Sonata No.12 in A Flat Major Op.26

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata No.12 in A Flat Major Op.26

Composed in 1800-1, this sonata, which was published in Vienna by Cappi in March 1802 and dedicated to Prince Carl von Lichnowsky, is generally regarded as the first to belong to Beethovenís 'second period'. The work is unorthodox in design, for as well as being unique in beginning with a set of variations, it does not include a single movement in sonata form. The five variations in the first movement preserve a fairly close resemblance to the theme itself; the interest of the movement lies to a great extent in the actual shape of the theme which, instead of being in the two conventional two eight-bar repeated sections, extends to 34 bars, and is in miniature ternary form; and in the coda, which introduces a new tune altogether.

It is followed by a terse but rhythmically varied Scherzo enclosing a Trio in D flat major that looks dull on paper because of its complete lack of rhythmic variety, but which should of course never sound dull in performance. The immensely dignified and sombre Marcia Funebre with its imposing dotted rhythm, is in every way a worthy predecessor of the second movement of the Eroica Symphony (1803-4). It has a 'trio' in the major, with patently 'orchestral' effects in the shape of thinly disguised drum rolls and trumpet calls. The finale is a condensed rondo on moto perpetuo subject that is treated with rare charm and freshness.

© Robin Golding

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